As the Director General of Renewable Energy and Hydrogen at the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Dr. Firas Al-Abduwani is responsible for shaping and implementing the public policies that support Oman’s transition to a low-carbon economy.
Al-Abduwani oversees the policy-making process covering the electricity market, energy efficiency, renewable energy, low carbon hydrogen, CCUS, the certification of electrons and molecules, EVs and energy storage.
With over 15 years of experience as a co-founder, CEO, and board member of various companies in the telecom and energy industries, Al-Abduwani has a proven track record of leading high-performance teams and excels in driving entrepreneurship, innovation, strategy, and execution.
Al-Abduwani is a continuous learner who has acquired and applied technical, managerial, and leadership skills in diverse fields, from telecom private networks to clean energy with numerous scholarships and accolades.
He is passionate about contributing to Oman’s development and competitiveness and is always eager to collaborate with and empower others who share this vision.
Can you please share how your industry experience, including Hydrom, informs your current vision?
Firas Al-Abduwani: Hydrogen is an important decarbonization vector for Oman. We view it as a key element addressing energy security and furthering economic diversification in Oman. Our goal is to transform Oman into a new, green, and low-carbon industrialization hub, benefiting society as a whole. This includes focusing on capability development, research and development (R&D), and innovation.
The industry has categorised hydrogen in different “colors” to differentiate between the different methods of hydrogen and associated emissions (if any). There are three colors that Oman is currently pursuing or assessing; green hydrogen which is produced through electrolysis of water using renewable energy and has no associated operational emissions; Blue hydrogen which is produced typically through steam methane reformation, and has the associated emissions captured and sequestered; and White hydrogen or geologic hydrogen that is produced from the subsurface.
“Oman is one of the top nations in the world when it comes to renewable energy resources given the complementarity of its solar and wind profiles”Dr. Firas Al-Abduwani
Oman is one of the top nations in the world when it comes to renewable energy resources given the complementarity of its solar and wind profiles. It also has favorable proximity to shorelines, and robust infrastructure, including ports and facilities. This presents an excellent opportunity for us to harness green hydrogen, export it globally, and attract industries to Oman. As for blue and white hydrogen, we are still in the early stages of assessing and studying the applicability of these forms of hydrogen to Oman’s toolkit of energy security, decarbonisation, and economic diversification.
Transportation and logistics are major consumers of oil and gas industry products, while also being significant contributors to CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. Could you provide insights on the transportation and logistics infrastructure for green hydrogen projects in Oman? What measures will be taken to ensure efficient transportation and distribution of green hydrogen within Oman and the international market?
Firas Al-Abduwani: Let’s first take a broader perspective on decarbonizing the mobility sector, not limited to green hydrogen alone. From the perspective of the Ministry, we do not just look at green hydrogen, we look at all the different tools available to us. The most effective way of reducing carbon emissions is by reducing unnecessary transportation. This involves urban planning, and exploring options like mass transportation through buses and trains, which would help Oman reduce its carbon footprint.
Another aspect is electrification. Electric vehicles (EVs), especially those powered by renewable energy or low-carbon electricity, play a significant role in light mobility. Some countries have set strict targets, such as banning the sale of internal combustion engine cars by 2030, 2035, or 2040. In Oman, we are progressing in clear incremental steps starting by first incentivizing the adoption of EVs, establishing an electric vehicle charging network, and developing regulations to promote the decarbonisation of mobility.
“In Oman, we are progressing in clear incremental steps starting by first incentivizing the adoption of EVs, establishing an electric vehicle charging network, and developing regulations to promote the decarbonisation of mobility.”Dr. Firas Al-Abduwani
Hydrogen has a role to play in mobility. From our analysis, when it comes to land mobility, hydrogen is more likely to play a role in heavy mobility rather than light mobility. Heavy trucking for example that follows specific routes over long spans and requires quick refuelling, is a space where hydrogen is a suitable low-carbon option. We recognize that the industry is nascent, so we are examining how to provide the necessary policy and regulatory support, starting pilot projects to gather learnings. These are some of the elements that we are looking into.
Transportation and logistics extend beyond land-based options. We believe that synthetic aviation fuels are expected to emerge, and Oman, with its abundant green hydrogen resources, can capitalize on them. By implementing effective strategies, we can convert green hydrogen into synthetic aviation fuels and position ourselves as a supplier of such fuels to the region. Furthermore, maritime fuels such as ammonia or methanol, both low-carbon alternatives, are areas Oman is exploring to become a bunkering leader.
Oman possesses an abundance of green hydrogen potential, which can contribute to transportation development. Has the ministry made any plans or taken any steps to engage new clients regionally or internationally to increase the uptake of green hydrogen in Oman?
Firas Al-Abduwani: The government established Hydrom precisely to proactively shape the market and attract investors, rather than Oman passively waiting for developers to knock on our doors, although the developers’ initiative is welcome.
Hydrom was created to orchestrate the market attract these investors, and help establish a green hydrogen ecosystem along with other stakeholders such as OPAZ and Asyad. Offtake of the end product is a shared responsibility between different parties. Ultimately the party that is responsible for securing offtake is the developer, and to maximise success Hydrom has a process in place to ensure selection of the most capable developers is achieved.
The ministry’s role in offtake ensures that the required destination certification schemes are well understood and adhered to in Oman. This is done by engaging in government-to-government (G2G) dialogues and contributing to the evolution of said certification schemes. Additionally, the government assesses the hard-to-abate sectors that rely on hydrogen and their alignment with Oman’s vision and attracts these downstream industries to Oman along with on-shoring the supply chain.
Another element the government works on is creating an environment for its national champion OQ Alternative Energy to grow into a globally competitive developer of renewable energy and green hydrogen. Linked to that is providing a platform for OQ Trading to become a global player in the trading of green hydrogen and its derivatives.
As you mentioned, the creation of Hydrom has authorized the production and operation of green hydrogen in Oman. In the process of developing these projects and attracting partnerships, customers, and investors, what challenges have you faced regarding green hydrogen in the Middle East?
Firas Al-Abduwani: The challenges we encounter are mainly global and shared across the world. Green hydrogen is a nascent industry that has yet to reach its potential. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 99% of the hydrogen consumed by the world in 2020 was grey hydrogen which is heavily carbon-emitting and produced from fossil fuels.
To transition to a green hydrogen economy, where hydrogen is produced through clean means, we must address the significant price gap. The cost of traditional grey hydrogen is typically below $2/kg, while green hydrogen today costs between $6 to $20 per kilogram, and is expected to be around $3/kg by 2030. Therefore, the main challenge is bridging this price gap which requires collaboration from multiple stakeholders worldwide.
“When it comes to the usage of hydrogen, we are looking at not only transporting it and exporting it externally but attracting the industries within Oman as well”Dr Firas Al-Abduwani
To overcome this challenge, we need technology to advance and achieve economies of scale, which will help lower the cost of green hydrogen production. Moreover, there needs to be some project de-risking to reduce financing and investment costs. After this comes the element of finding off-takers. We need to incentivize end users to shift from grey hydrogen to green hydrogen. These challenges exist globally and require collective efforts.
Transportation is another complex aspect of hydrogen. Hydrogen is a very difficult molecule to transport and move. We are addressing this issue collaboratively with our national and state-owned companies. We also have our investment arms who are looking at proactively deploying capital to ensure that this learning curve happens and is linked back to Oman effectively. When it comes to the usage of hydrogen, we are looking at not only transporting it and exporting it externally but attracting the industries within Oman as well. Extensive efforts are being made to establish a strong local market for low-carbon hydrogen consumption.
You have provided a comprehensive overview of the efforts being made by the Sultanate of Oman in the field of green hydrogen. Could you please elaborate on the long-term goals and targets set for the green hydrogen industry in Oman beyond Vision 2040? Additionally, how does Oman plan to position itself in the global market for green hydrogen, and what competitive edge can it offer as an Omani hydrogen producer?
Firas Al-Abduwani: When we look at the global supply and demand for hydrogen in all its flavors and consider the various analyses, we find that in 2020, the world consumed nearly 100 million tons of hydrogen with 99% of it being grey hydrogen.
It is believed that by 2050, global hydrogen usage will reach around 440 million tons under a sustainable development scenario targeting a temperature increase cap of two degrees Celsius by 2100. So, looking at this projected growth of hydrogen, forecasts show that by 2050, 400 million tons will be low-carbon hydrogen. Of this low-carbon hydrogen, 50% will be green hydrogen, accounting for 200 million tons, while the remaining 200 million tons will be blue hydrogen.
Most of the nations around the world will try to localize hydrogen generation and consumption. Therefore, 50% of the mentioned figures will be generated and used domestically rather than traded internationally. This means that the tradable amount of green hydrogen by 2050 will be about 100 million tons. Oman has set a target to capture at least 8% of this tradeable green hydrogen which is equivalent to 8 million tons by 2050. Moreover, looking at the expected global demand of approximately 28 million tons by 2030, we have set a minimum target of 1.25 million tons for that year. As for the growth potential of Oman, we anticipate reaching around 3.5 million tons by 2040.
“Most of the nations around the world will try to localize hydrogen generation and consumption.”Dr Firas Al-Abduwani
To summarize, our targets include 1 to 1.25 million tons by 2030, approximately 3.5 million tons by 2040, and a minimum of 8 million tons by 2050, depending on market conditions and evolving forecasts.
Long-term goals would revolve around continuous energy security, economic diversification, decarbonisation, establishing a global sustainable low-carbon hub, building capabilities and spurring innovation. These will be pursued by striking an evolving balance between low-cost hydrogen production and capturing value for Oman, between exporting H2 and building a green hydrogen ecosystem locally, and between leveraging international expertise and building local capabilities.